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John Paul II's Legacy in Diplomacy

4/18/2005 - 7:00 AM PST

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Father Robert John Araujo on Pope's Contributions

SPOKANE, Washington, APRIL 18, 2005 (Zenit) - John Paul's diplomatic legacy will remind the world that every person bears the image of our Creator and loving God.

So says Jesuit Father Robert John Araujo, former legal adviser to the permanent mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, professor at Gonzaga University School of Law and co-author of "Papal Diplomacy and the Quest for Peace: The Vatican and International Organizations from the Early Years to the League of Nations" (Sapientia).

He shared with us how John Paul II helped to establish and strengthen diplomatic relations, mediate disputes and uphold the dignity of the human person wherever possible.

Q: What is Pope John Paul II's diplomatic legacy?

Father Araujo: Pope John Paul II leaves behind an admirable legacy in the world of diplomacy.

When he became Pope in 1978, the Holy See had active diplomatic exchanges with a little more than 80 countries. At the end of his papacy in 2005, he had more than doubled the diplomatic exchanges to 174.

He also strengthened and increased the Holy See's participation in international conferences throughout the world that were hosted by a wide variety of international and regional organizations.

Some of these efforts achieved remarkable results when the Holy See was asked to mediate the border dispute between Chile and Argentina in the 1980s.

Through these efforts, the two neighboring states -- who were considering the use of armed force to resolve their border dispute -- amicably resolved their controversy with the Holy See's assistance and the Pope's encouragement by entering the Act of Montevideo in 1979. The successful conclusion was reached in 1984.

His Holiness also sent delegations to major international conferences dealing with important social and economic issues such as the International Conference for Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994, the Fourth World Women's Conference in Beijing in 1995 and the Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries for the International Criminal Court in 1998.

Needless to say, through the courage and inspiration of the Holy Father, the Church's delegations at these major conferences were able to modify the concluding texts of these conferences so that the false "rights" of the culture of death and exaggerated individual autonomy were not included or recognized and that some of the authentic concerns about the human family were included.

In the summer of 2004, the Holy See worked closely with the United Nations General Assembly for the adoption of the first resolution ever spelling out the rights of a state permanent observer at the U.N.

We must keep in mind that in its history, the U.N. has had many state permanent observers -- for example, Switzerland, Italy, East and West Germany, North and South Vietnam, North and South Korea, and Japan; however, none of them sought or received the formalization of their permanent observer status through the adoption of a resolution.

Q: How did John Paul personally display an aptitude for diplomacy?

Father Araujo: The Holy Father was a gifted man who knew how to work constructively with people from all regions of the world regardless of race, ethnicity or religion.

First of all, he continued with great skill the issuance of the annual World Day of Peace message commenced by Pope Paul VI in 1968.

In addition, he formally convened at the beginning of each New Year the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See to discuss with its members the pressing issues of the global community. He also took the time to greet personally the new ambassadors who were presenting their credentials to the Holy See.

Needless to say, he also enjoyed meeting heads of states and other dignitaries who would be visiting Rome. On these occasions, he ensured that the Church's views on the pressing issues of the day that threatened the dignity of the human person were made known to these powerful officeholders and diplomats.

Finally, he always took the opportunity to use the occasions of his global apostolic visits to meet with national leaders, some friends and some foes to the Church, to explore ways of bettering the lives of those who were oppressed and marginalized. Regardless of their views, these officials came to respect and even love the Holy Father.

Q: What was the significance of the Pope establishing diplomatic ties with the United States, Great Britain and Israel during his pontificate?

Father Araujo: The Holy See and the United States enjoyed diplomatic relations for a while in the 19th century; however, the aftermath of the Italian Unification led to dissolution of these relations.

They were ...

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